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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  October 26, 2015 5:00pm-7:01pm EDT

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our proses but we're looking at bigger fixes to see whether we can surge resources, whether we can add innovation to make our processing faster. but the other key piece is going to be we must get better records from our state and local partners. so that when our examiners query a data base they have the disposition reported and have to go trackting down. we're having productive conversations with state and local law enforcement who see in the wake of the pain of that tragedy that the importance of giving us those records. that is what we are doing to improve our processing. the policy questions are not for the fbi. we comply with the law. as it stands today, we have three days to get it done. we will do our best to get it done in three days. if congress were to change that we would get it done, obviously. back to encryption, i understand the concerns you have raised here today and in the past. the experts really say, trying to get the back door is a mistake. if you have the back door, the
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hackers will get it and china will get it and we will be less safe. that leads me to a question about the use of encryption by the fbi. are you encrypting all of your your agents,l of and personnel, and payroll, and systems? data. we use encryption on a significant amount of data. >> i'd like to follow up with that because i was stunned that the office of personnel did not have that important data encrypted. the federal government should protect itself by encrypting this data. we know that we're being hacked constantly by state actors and the enemies of our country and i'm sure they would love to get data about the f.b.i. i look forward to hearing a greater details on them. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> recognize the gentleman from
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california mr. issa for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i have so many questions and so little time. i'll try to touch on each and bear with me. on sting rays, i'm going to ask you to tell us now or for the record how you control the access to these products when they're not being used. how you control them when they are being used not just at the fbi but to the extent that you are cooperating with nonfederal agencies around the country that have these devices and, specifically, i'm very concerned that since they're being used at times without warrant almost mostly, and there are at least some allegations they've been used to track policemen's girlfriends or wives' activities and so on that they are too powerful a tool not to have a series of controls. again, some of this you can answer for the record. on that i'd like a full understanding of federal policy and controls.
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in the case of encryption i'm only going to ask you, to be a long answer to provide for the record, any and all studies you have to show the value of the encryption and the value of your access or ability to not go dark and if it is classified i'll look at it in the classified section but i'd like to fully understand the value of the studies related to that general direction of the administration. but i'd like to take up for today more, a question on some historic pieces. a few offices away they're dealing with secretary clinton and those, so i won't ask about those today. i think that is certainly an ongoing investigation as to her use of private e-mail for transmitting what turns out to
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be sensitive information. in the case long before your tenure, solyndra went bankrupt after accepting half a billion dollars in taxpayer money. at that time, we began an investigation in the oversight committee and were told by the d.o.e. inspector general we could not talk, he could not talk to us because the fbi at that time had an ongoing investigation. it's now four years later and the department, the i.g. did release information but we have not received any indication from the f.b.i. so today i'd like to ask you who at the fbi made decisions not to bring any charges against solyndra executives and what the basis was to find no fault in that loss of $500 million in -- $500 million, and particularly since there was evidence provided publicly by our committee that there were emergency efforts to get some
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additional money to have their bankruptcy delayed and that was done by federal employees including a gentleman named jonathan silver. you might remember in may of 2013 the president stood beside the attorney general and declared there would be serious investigation by the doj and fbi into the political targeting done by the irs. months later the president declared there wasn't a smidgeon of corruption related to the i.r.s. director, you know that in fact there was targeting. the evidence is convincing. where you stand on bringing accountability to those involved at all levels to targeting conservatives and pro israel groups by the i.r.s., including but not limited to lois lerner? director comey: thank you, congressman. with respect to the first two, the sting rays and encryption, we'll get you information on the record, for the record.
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with respect to solyndra, first of all the f.b.i. doesn't make decisions to prosecute. we investigate, bring the evidence to prosecutors -- >> i appreciate that. but there is either a decision to refer for prosecution or not. and to the extent that there was one, i would like the evidence that it was referred but not prosecuted to the extent that there was a decision not to refer one or more that would be helpful. i appreciate the other part of justice handles the other part and we will have the attorney general here shortly. director comey: we worked the solyndra matter very, very hard and had it reviewed by two different u.s. attorneys offices , one in california, one in new york. they both made the same decision that there was insufficient evidence to bring prosecution. probably limited what i can say about the details because it was a grand jury investigation but that is the upshot of it. i had a lot of folks working very, very hard. one u.s. attorney's office looked at it. i asked it be brought to a second u.s. attorney's office.
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my alma mater in new york and they looked at it and decided there was insufficient basis to prosecute criminally. that's where the matter stands. with respect to the irs investigation, i think it is still pending as i sit here so i'm not able to talk about it in any way. >> i just want to close with a very short comment. it was 2010 when we became aware the i.r.s. was targeting conservatives. it is now almost i really would 2016. would comeif the fbi up with a timeline that says an investigation is not ongoing and aggressively pursued if a certain period of time passes and nothing has happened. i would only ask that five years begin to become an amount of time in which the f.b.i. can say we can't say with a straight , face it is ongoing if it's five years later and nothing has happened. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. chair recognizes the gentleman from tennessee, mr. coen for five minutes.
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>> thank you, mr. chair. i'm a big fan of yours. at the same time, i would like to ask you a question. i understand you keep a copy of the f.b.i. request to wire tap dr. martin luther king on your desk as a reminder of the f.b.i.'s capacity to do wrong is that correct? >> that is correct. >> i commend you for that. that occurred during j. edgar hoover's tenure as director. as you know, j edgar hoover did some awful, terrible things in his life and as f.b.i. director. tel-proted the coin program, that harassed civil rights workers, flc people, dr. king in particular, activists and homosexuals. he was abusive.
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he was the opposite of justice. his efforts to silence dr. king and out homosexuals by the -- it out homosexuals working for the federal government were a stain on the history of the f.b.i. it is reported at one point he had a letter sent to dr. king threatening to expose all kinds of private information selected -- collected surreptitiously. the letter appeared to suggest dr. king should kill himself to save himself from embarrassment. king, there is only one thing left for you to do. you know what it is. you have just 34 days in which to do it. you are done. there is but one way out for you. you better take it before your fill become abnormal, fraudulent self is bared to the nation. this was the head of the f.b.i. treatment of homosexuals was no better. he called them sex deviants and ordered the f.b.i. to identify everyone in the bureau even suspected of being homosexual in the federal government. there is a documentary done on this on by michael isakoff called "uniquely nasty."
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i watched it and was shocked. it premiered at the newseum. it is sickening what the f.b.i. did. in 1951, hoover issued a memo to top fbi officials saying each , supervisor will be held personally responsible to underline in green pencil the names of individuals who are alleged to be sex deviants. this was discovered through a foia two years ago. the f.b.i. eventually had more than 260,000 files on gays and lesbians. it is reported in 1952 he outed a young campaign aide and went awol -- and went on a war on him and senator vandenberg a , republican, eventually committed suicide in the senate office because of what they brought out about his son and what they were doing to destroy him. j. edgar hoover was a man that doesn't reflect the good people of the f.b.i. or reflect what you and the f.b.i. are trying to do today. the f.b.i.'s own website
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intel-pro program as rightly criticized by congress and the american people for first amendment rights and other reasons. would you agree his name is not appropriate as a reflection to what the fine people at the fbi did today to bring about justice? director comey: i'm sorry, hoover's name? >> i'm saying, does it not reflect the quality that the fbi individuals and the f.b.i. today have in pursuing justice and being fair and not using tactics to attack minorities in this country? director comey: i see. thank you. i'm sorry. the f.b.i. today is vastly different than it was under its first director. in some of the ways you mentioned and lots of other ways. i keep that under the glass of my desk not to dump on hoover. i never knew the man. but to make sure people understand the danger in falling in love with your own view of things and the danger in the absence of constraints and
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oversight. i am somebody who believes people should be very skeptical of government power. i'm a nice person. i suppose you should trust me but oversee me and i should be checked and i should be balanced. that is the way you constrained power. it is there to remind me. >> i agree and appreciate that but you agree his name does not reflective of what the fbi stands for and what fbi agents of today believe in and do? director comey: i think that's fair. hoover did a lot of good things for law enforcement in the united states. did a lot of things that through the lens of history we reject as improper. i am no historian, but i imagine a historian would say you have to take the total measure after -- total measure of the person to figure out what is good and bad and i am not equipped to do that. >> thank you sir. i would like to see his name taken off the building. i'm going to reintroduce that bill. i would hope as i mentioned the last time we have a new building sometime in the future named for somebody like you. director comey: i appreciate
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that. >> or congressman edwards or attorney general kennedy. i yield back the balance of my time. >> thank you, gentlemen. recognize the gentleman from iowa mr. king for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. director comey, thanks for coming to testify. i just would comment that i appreciate your response when you used the reference the lens of history. that was a different set of values that applies today than back in those days. but i'm looking at our values today and watching as there is a fairly strong push here for sentencing reform in the united states. and i've watched as the president or the administration at least has directed that thousands be released on to the streets before they serve their terms. and that we've seen that some of them have been charged with homicide and found guilty. i think that number is around 121 or so. i thought i saw the number 36,007 felons released and a subsequent number. i'm actually blurred by the parade of releases we've seen
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and now i see a, what appears to be a group of legislators that believe we can save tax dollars by releasing more on to the streets. are you aware of any studies that would help quantify the impact of these releases in terms of either prospective crimes that are likely to be committed or perhaps even quantifying it in terms of the dollar value that's suffered in great, huge, chopping chunks like crime victims? director comey: i'm not aware of any studies on that. it's not that i would be. that's sort of a policy question but i'm not aware of any. >> they are very hard to find. i've searched a long way back. i'm going from memory. it occurs to me that in 1992 there was a justice department study that did quantify numerically the cost of crime. but do you have any studies that show statistically whether there would be more crime or less crime that would take place because of the early releases?
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director comey: i am not aware of any studies on that. >> what would be your professional estimate? would we have more crime or less crime? director comey: i know we face as a country a significant challenge with recidivism. high reoffend rate among people released. my whole career is dedicated to the proposition that law enforcement contributes to a drop in crime. it's not entirely responsible for the historic drop in crime we have seen over my lifetime but it a big part of it so that -- but it is a big part of it so that is the way i think about it. >> mandatory sentencing statistically shows to have had a positive impact on reducing the crime in the streets of america? director comey: i think so. mandatory minimums have been an important part of my work as a prosecutor. reasonable people can discuss whether it should be at this level or this level but some mandatory sentence, some fixed prospect of punishment is very, very valuable in incapacitating people and developing cooperaters. >> and sometime back i sat down with a very impressive chief of police in one of our major cities who remarked to me about
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the very high homicide rate in the inner city of his city and his response was that the black-on-black homicide rate in that city was roughly 98% of the homicides that took place. i don't know that we discussed these kinds of statistics. i would be hopeful we could find a way to do this and alleviate this situation that we have. we have gone into a void on this for politically correct reasons, but are you aware of any data that would reflect what i've en you? director comey: i think there is a lot of data collected by criminologists and others on the demographics of homicide victims and perpetrators. i can't cite it off the top of my head but i know smart people have done that work. >> and that 98% number wouldn't be shocking to you? director comey: i don't think it would shock me in particular neighborhoods that are heavily
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concentrated with people of a certain demographic background but i don't know the number off the top of my head. >> is there a planned parenthood investigation currently taking place in the f.b.i.? director comey: i'm not able to answer that question because i don't know enough. i know there have been letters written to the department of justice about it. i'll have to get back to you on that one because i don't know the status of matters within the fbi on that sitting here this morning. >> has anyone from the administration, to your knowledge, ever sought to influence you or any subordinates on whether to investigate a crime? director comey: never. >> specifically nonplanned parenthood would be included in that? director comey: that would be included. >> that would be consistent with your independent and honest characteristics of the fbi. you're implementing the "usa today" freedom act now.
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-- the usa freedom act now. do you have access to more or less information than you had before the usa freedom act was passed? director comey: it really hasn't changed because we're still under the old telephone metadata system. as i said to the chairman i think the new one kicks in at the end of november, so currently our world is , unchanged. >> okay. you expect more or less? director comey: i expect more actually. >> it'll be interesting to follow up on if i had another minute. i'll yield back. >> the gentleman does not have another minute but the chair will recognize the gentle woman from california for five minutes. >> director comey, i want to discuss with you a series of very troubling federal investigations against chinese-american scientists who are treated as spies and have their lives turned upside down only to have the charges dropped. most recently, we have a case of an american citizen and well respected professor who was chair of the physics department at temple university. he led a normal and peaceful life as a scientist, professor, and researcher with two
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daughters and wife in quiet pennsylvania neighborhood. he had no criminal record, no history of violence. just an average american in academia. one day at the break of dawn , about a dozen armed f.b.i. agents stormed into his house with their guns drawn. he was handcuffed in his own home and his two young daughters and wife in pajamaas and directed out of the house at gun point. the state in charge wire fraud. ,however, in the interrogation it was clear he was accused of , being a spy for china. his life has been turned upside down. he lost his title as chair of the physics department. his reputation was irrevocably damaged. his wife endures emotional trauma as does his whole family and himself. after all of this, the charges against dr. xi were dropped. my understanding of cases of wire fraud is that generally people aren't even handcuffed let alone arrested or paraded in front of their family and neighborhood as criminals at gun
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point. rather, they've been given an opportunity to self surrender and if someone is being investigated for wire fraud they are usually informed about such an investigation by target letter. but we know that professor xi is not alone. sheri chen was also recently arrested, a u.s. citizen, employee of the national weather service in ohio. she was arrested at her place of work, led in handcuffs past her co-workers to a federal courthouse 40 miles away, where she was told she would face 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines. several months later, all the charges were dropped without any explanation. this is reminiscent of course of dr. wen ho lee, another u.s. citizen whose life was ruined when he was accused of being a spy for china only to have 58 of the 59 charges dropped. let's not forget that during
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world war ii, 120,000 japanese americans lost everything they had and were imprisoned in desolate camps because they were accused of being spies for japan. 3/4 of them were u.s. citizens. 70 years later, not a single case of espionage was proven. i am particularly concerned about this because there is a stereotype that asian americans are perpetual foreigners no matter how long they've lived in this country. my question to you is, is this common practice to have a dozen armed f.b.i. agents arrest someone for wire fraud, someone who is not a flight risk and poses no harm to law enforcement? or is there a presumption of guilt when it comes to chinese americans because they are viewed as spies for china? director comey: thank you, congresswoman. at the outset, the challenge i'm going to answer -- the challenge to me is i can't talk about the
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facts of something that is of an investigation, including ones that are pending. i guess i can say this. first of all, we operate with no presumption that anyone is guilty or any stereotype on any particular person. we are a fact-based organization. we are required to gather facts and through a prosecutor present them to a judge to make a showing of probable cause before we can get a warrant to arrest anybody. a whole lot of people in this country are arrested on wire fraud charges. i've been involved in many cases where people are handcuffed and arrested from wire fraud is a very serious felony. the particulars of the case i wouldn't talk about but i cannot connect the dots in the manner that you have and that is probably all i can say about individual matters. >> we understand the threat of economic espionage is real and we don't take it lightly. however, we want to make sure in all cases there is due process and otherwise innocent americans do not become suspicious simply because the person taking those
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actions has an ethnic surname. yet in the case of professor xi his investigation came out of , the blue. he had no idea he was being investigated. primarily because he did nothing wrong, as evidenced by the dropped charges. do you know how many chinese americans are being surveyed? director comey: i do not. >> i will personally follow up with you on this issue to figure out what is happening in cases like professor xi's and how we can make sure no other american regardless of their origin or , background, endures this kind of egregious humiliation and shame. with that, i yield back. >> the chair thanks the gentle woman and recognizes the gentleman from texas for five minutes. >> thank you for being here. i don't think i ever told you but back in the july, august timeframe of 2007 i was talking with a powerful democratic
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senator and we agreed you had a great reputation for justice, honorable man that would potentially be a good attorney general. it ended up being mccasy but you were discussed very favorably by both sides of the aisle. we appreciate your work. i want to touch on something my friend steve cain brought up. -- steve king brought up. i know there is a lot of talk about how we need to have reform and people being released from prison, but as someone who has worked with the system, i've prosecuted, been a judge, been court appointed to defend, and isn't it true that some people that actually plead to nonviolent offenses, do so as part of a plea agreement where the prosecutor drops a gun
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charge or some charge of violence in order to get a plea in the case and a lesser sentence? haven't you seen that happen? director comey: i've seen that happen. >> so that's why for someone like me, who is a former judge who saw those kind of plea agreements take place, even though i was in the state side, it's shocking to see people come from the outside and say this wasn't a fair sentence without really considering what could have been prosecuted, what could have been pursued, and what was a transaction, an agreement between a prosecutor and defense attorney that the judge considered all the circumstances and came down on the side of the agreement. well, i want to touch on something else you'd said about -- with iraq refugees, you had a database apparently of
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figure prints from ied's evidence that had been obtained , from iraq. did i understand that correctly? director comey: yes, sir. >> now, with regard to the masses of syrian refugees i'm not aware of a lot of ied's that we've gotten, evidence from which you could get fingerprints. is there such a database? director comey: i think that's right. there may be some. and a variety of other intelligence sources that may help us try and understand who people are but the point i was trying to make is we had a whole lot more information about iraq because our soldiers had been there and run into people and collected information. >> right. and that goes to a concern of mine. i'm not the biggest fan of the u.n., but they had data i pulled from their website this morning that says, starting off, that more than 43 million people worldwide are now forcibly displaced as a result of the conflict and persecution and goes on to say that children
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constitute about 41% of the world's refugees. and, about half of all refugees are women. to it was very disturbing pull this from the u.n. website in september that says of the 381,000 arrivals that came across the mediterranean sea , that 15% were children, 13% were women, and 72% were men. along withke that saying james clapper that this provides a prime opportunity for islamic state groups to attack western targets , he said a disaster of biblical proportions. then you take statements that have been made by isis leaders themselves that they have been able to place more than 4000
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warriors in with the refugees. has that spike concern in the fbi along with what you testified before about isis having people in every state? director comey: it is a risk that we are focused on and trying to do anything we can to mitigate. fingerprint database or good identification, how can you be sure that anyone is who they say they are if we don't have fingerprints to go against. when i watched people exchange identification information and decide to use the other ones. is there a good way to avoid ?hat director comey: the only thing we can query is information we have. if they have never been a ripple in the pond, then there will be
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no record and it will be challenging. >> the gentleman from illinois, mr. gutierrez. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and welcome, director. i'm going to have a conversation about one area, and that is about god. -- about guns. 40-50hometown, there are shootings in a weekend. that is a whole classroom of kids. so, i know that you have a relationship with making sure we check who can and cannot -- it seems that whatever we do in chicago -- first, our laws and in weekend. it used to be pretty strong.
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inn i first got elected 1986, to give you a batch and you get a gun. badge orot to take the the gun. i figured chicago police could do those things. here we have a majority in the congress of the united states who is really unwilling to take up the challenge. they're coming from indiana and mississippi and all over. they wind up in chicago. i guess, if you could just tell of how toe your ideas lie or people at a local level help curb gun violence. what things can we do to help curb legislation? the fbi business
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is not policymaking but enforcement of the law, so we spend a lot of time on enforcement. felon,llegal for a someone convicted of domestic violence. i have devoted a lot of my career as a prosecutor to impose because the challenge we face in a lot of cities is the bad guy thinks it is just another piece of clothing. that leads to a lot more shootings based on people bumping into each other, frankly. our mission is to send a strong message of deterrence that you ought not to have that gun. that will make that corner safer. it requires tremendous effort by the law enforcement community.
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we are doing a lot of that though including in chicago where your characterization is exactly right. >> can you tell us what kinds of things we are doing in chicago? your agency and the federal government to help the people of the city. director comey: we are trying to focus on some of the predators who are focusing on this violence. we do taskforces, we do drug task forces and as i said, we operate on an ad hoc basis to try to lock up repeat offenders. >> as i've look at the challenge of gun violence in the city of chicago and i see that there is -- if we took a map of the city of chicago and we put little stars where people had been murdered due to gun violence, do
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you see it as -- is it the whole city of chicago? i am not that worried about my grandson walking in the park -- i am worried but not that worried as i would be in other neighborhoods. what other dimensions relate to gun violence? director comey: i know the city of chicago pretty well having gone to law school there. the story of chicago is much like other cities. it is localized. the violence is heavier concentrated. in chicago, primarily south and west. it is the groups of, primarily young men who are carrying firearms when they are prohibited by law from carrying them on the streets and that inevitably leads to the most -- what would have been a fist fight when you were a kid, today is a shoot out.
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what we are doing in law enforcement is to change the behavior. they are good at cost-benefit analysis. the idea is to force a cost-benefit liability. that is how we hope to change behaviors. >> 15 more seconds. there is a group of us in the hispanic congressional caucus and the african-american members, we would like to have a roundtable discussion with you, a conversation from different parts of the united states. in a less formal setting such as this. you might give us some of your thoughts or input. would you agree to that? director comey: i would be happy to. >> the chair recognizes the
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gentleman from texas. >> i want to talk about several subjects and see how many i can get in in five minutes. the idea that under current law, if e-mail is stored in the cloud, government does not need a warrant to obtain that e-mail. is that your understanding of the law? director comey: you probably know best. after 180 days. we still operate under a warrant. that is our policy. that is the law. if it is older than 180 days -- >> it is after 180 days. before, or during, you have to have a warrant. other government agencies still
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have the ability to seize that e-mail without a warrant. because the law does not require that they get a warrant. director comey: they would need some sort of legal practice. >> they would need some other court document from a magistrate. i am sure that you are aware that myself and others have filed legislation to require any government agency to obtain a warrant if e-mails are over six months old and stored in the cloud. next subject. 702. let's talk about obtaining
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backdoor information on some different companies such as google or yahoo! or whoever. does the fbi request that backdoor device be put into a cell phone? director comey: i do not know what you mean by backdoor device. >> the fbi could obtain the information in the cell phone without a warrant and you could ask the maker of the phone for example to install a device in the phone to obtain that information. director comey: no, we would need a court order for the device or online to take content or put an implant in a phone. we would need a title iii order. >> my question is -- does the fbi request manufacturers to put a device in the phone itself to obtain that backdoor information? to have it available?
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director comey: no. when we collect information, it is pursuant -- we are talking about the content of a person's communication, we do it through a court order. we don't go through the person who made the device. >> when you talk about court order, are you talking about a warrant? director comey: a search warrant or an order from a federal judge if we are looking to intercept communications as they are moving. >> i think the fourth amendment applies to that type of procedure. you are saying that the fbi complies with the law, the fourth amendment, on obtaining that information. director comey: yes, the fourth amendment is sort of the spine of the fbi. >> i am glad to here that.
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let us talk about surveillance with the use of drones and fixed wing aircraft. specifically, targeted surveillance with the use of a drone. does the fbi obtain a warrant to do that? director comey: any kind of aircraft, we do not. if what we are doing, which is what we use them for, to follow someone. the drones, we do not. we have a small number of unmanned aircraft. we operate drones within line of sight. when we are talking about surveilling someone come we are
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talking about an airplane with a human being in it. we do not get a warrant for that. the law does not require that. >> the difference being -- i am not talking about circumstances, but any circumstances -- saying the fourth amendment does not apply to the drones. the faa makes those decisions. director comey: to follow someone on foot or in a plane, we do not have to go to a court to get permission. >> should the fbi make the rules regarding fourth amendment? director comey: the fbi does not make any laws. congress makes the laws. the courts interpret them. >> the faa may make the regulations on what you can do with a drone.
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i think that congress ought to awaken and determine what the reasonable expectation ought to be with the use of drones. do you have an opinion on that? director comey: i don't think i have a view or a preference. the fbi, we are maniacs on wanting to follow the law. if congress changed the law, we would follow it. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from georgia for five minutes. >> thank you mr. chairman. director comey. you mentioned how isil and other terrorist organizations field potential recruits in social media and private messaging platforms. could you detail the issues that law enforcement is facing due to the encryption.
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director comey: the isil challenge illustrates the problem we call going dark. isil increasingly uses this when they find someone who i call a live one, someone who they might be able to motivate into acts of violence in the united states. they move them from twitter. to a mobile messaging app that is end to end encrypted. if we get a court order from a judge and intercept the communication, we cannot read it. their communications become invisible to us even with a court order. that is the challenge. we think that in all kinds of criminal cases as well but it is very well illustrated by the isil challenge. >> in other words, a foreign-based person, a foreign person operating from a foreign location using social networks
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such as twitter can identify a potential target for radicalization or someone who is already radicalized but who is reaching out to this foreign-based person. and then they can take it to another site where their communications are encrypted. because they are encrypted, then law enforcement, whether or not it has a warrant, cannot discover what they are talking about even though the foreign-based person is a isil member. director comey: that is correct and we have to have a court order but the court order would be useless. >> the practical impact of that is what? director comey: that we cannot know what somebody who is planning on an act of violence
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against a police officer, member of the military, or civilian is up to her and when they will -- it up to and when they will act. it is darkness. they go dark to us in a way that is really important in those matters. >> ok. you mentioned about traditional crimes, domestic crimes and how encryption hurts your ability to get at domestic criminal activity. can you talk about how in a case of hot pursuit or exigent circumstances, this adversely affects our ability to keep americans safe? director comey: there is a lot of different ways it impacts.
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i believe the going to problem overwhelmingly affects state and local law enforcement. people talk about it like it is an intelligence question but it is almost entirely a law enforcement question. to give you an example. if they recover a cell phone at a scene where someone has been murdered or kidnapped, they cannot open the device even with a court order to figure out who that person was communicating with before they disappeared. we also are increasingly encountering where drug gangs or carjacking gangs are communicating using apps, text apps that are encrypted and with a court order we cannot read them. it is becoming increasingly -- the logic of it is that it will affect all of our work at some point. hundreds of pieces will be affected by it. it is all of our lives -- they are becoming part of the digital world. when that is covered by strong
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encryption, judges will not be able to order access in serious criminal cases are national security cases. that is the future we are going towards. maybe that is where we want to be but we ought to talk about it as we are going to that place. >> thank you for your responses. >> i recognize the gentleman from utah for five minutes. >> thank you for being here. the fbi has had to change through the course of time since my grandfather who was a career fbi agent served. great admiration for the agency and what you in particular are doing. i want to go back to cyber.
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can you articulate the size, scope, and investment you have in personnel dollars to address the cyber threat that is going to continue in perpetuity. director comey: i probably cannot give you exact numbers sitting here but we have, the cyber division headquarters that does nothing but cyber related work. and a cyber task force in everystate's fbi field office. that does not capture it because all of the threats we are responsible for -- everyone has to be cyber analysts or cyber agents in a way. i can give you specifics on how many hundreds or thousands of people are assigned to this work but it is even broader. >> what is it that you cannot do -- is there another department or agency that is doing something that the fbi could not do? director comey: in a cyber realm? that is a good question. >> thank you. director comey: i cannot think of it sitting here. we work with our partners, nsa in particular, in fighting the cyber threat that comes from overseas.
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the bureau cannot reach out in that way. >> let me ask you in the context of the united states secret service. i was surprised to learn that two thirds of the agents that they have, two thirds of their time is spent on investigations in cyber. it begs the question to me -- why do we have such a small group of people doing that which the fbi has a much bigger resource, infrastructure, and expertise in doing. as we look at restructuring this service, and getting more focused on the protective mission, why not combine the two? director comey: such a good question, i misunderstood. one of the things i have been trying to do is drive us closer together to the secret service. they have expertise in the
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financial related intrusions and credit cards scams. they have spent years developing that expertise so i do not want to duplicate that. i would like us to combine our task forces. there ought to be one. they do great work and i want to make sure we do not duplicate and i want to do joint training with them. we cannot do enough for state and local law enforcement to help them deal with digital crimes. >> in terms of the personnel that you have associated with that, how would that work? are there other agencies? director comey: there are people at hsi within the department of
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homeland security that are doing cyber related crime work. there is a lot of state and local law enforcement that are doing it and they are part of our task forces. >> can you shed any more light on the fbi's next generation cy can you shed anymore light on the next generation cyber initiative? explain that to me a little bit more? >> without eating up all your time, it's our strategy, my strategy for where we're going to take the fbi in the next three to five years so it involves deploying our people in a a different way, getting better training, better equipment, focusing ourselves on the threats that i think the fbi given its footprint is best able to address. so it's our whole of fbi approach to cyber over the next three to five years. >> they won't necessarily be bouncing around at different tasks? >> correct. >> all right.
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i appreciate the time. i'll yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. we'll recognize mr. deutsche. >> thank you for being with us today. i represent south florida, broward county and palm beach county. we're experiencing an epidemic. broward county is the. center of the national crisis and the number of cases are spiraling out of control. the sheriffs office stated that they analyzed a single case. this year the sheriffs office reported 100 cases per month. . they are receiving 12 cases per day. this past here it's contributed to the death of 45 people in broward county. it started to spread north into palm beach county. in 2014 there were 35
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submissions involving the sheriffs office crime lab. in 2015 there have been 42. there have been 10 arrests in palm beach county and it's moving into tennessee, and other states. as you're aware, people use iin- to remove their clothes. it's cheap, it costs $5 and can be easily purchased online from chi china. the low cost of the drug and easy access are troubling. flakka is extremely difficult for law enforcement to prosecute. the primary problem is the kpe sigs can't be pinpointed as illegal because the drugs are constantly changing their composition. as soon as the sin thet you can drug is listed as illegal, it's changed to evade the listing that made the drug more readily available. in fact, a recent news report in miami found that flakka is being made into gummy bears.
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the only difference between the real ones and flakka are the ones individually wrapped and stickier. dealers are using them to hook young people. so if you could target the efforts that the fbi is taking to crack down on this epidemic of synthetic drugs, flak ka in particular and speak to the challenges you face in these cases involving synthetic drugs. >> the synthetic -- they have the lead on federal level, but we are participating through our drug task forces in try iing too something about that, which you're right. it's appearing in gas stations or little markets where kids can walk up and buy these things not
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knowing what they are buying and it will wreck their life. >> current law permits synthetic drugs to be treated as a controlled substance if they are chemically several to schedule one or schedule two control s substanc substances. but the nature of the drugs keep changing. they change to avoid being listed as a controlled substance. what steps can lawmakers take to help in your efforts, local enforcement efforts to crack down on this epidemic. >> i know from talking to rosen berg that they are keenly focused on that problem, which is every time they schedule one of these things it comes in from china slightly different so it's not scheduled anymore. >> this is an issue that dominates the head loouns.
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it's an issue that affects young people and as you point out, the moment that somebody takes this, one of these synthetic drugs, flakka, which is so ready available in florida and elsewhere, it changes and often ruins their lives. >> i thank the gentleman. >> good afternoon, it's good to see you. >> good to see you again sir. i'm a maniac for the rule of law. as you're aware, most of my career was in law enforcement and i still consider myself a law enforcement guy. my family has been in law enforcement for a long time as
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well. i appreciate your comments concerning oversight and the rule of law. it's needed very much today even more so today. but i want to emphasize the fact that i have worked with all agencies, state, local and federal, and 99.9% of our agents are topnotch. i trust them watching my back at any time. with that, you have very effectively answered two questions that i had that i was going to ask you. so as a result, i will yield back the remainder of my time and best of luck. >> great to see you. >> i thank the je mamgentleman recognize ms. bass for five minutes. >> thank you, director, for coming and testify iing today. i'd like to talk about the recent operation cross traffic fbi's nationwide effort to crack down on child sex trafficking.
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the fbi's october 13 release about the operation states, a nationwide law enforcement action that focused on underage victims of prostitution has concluded with the recovery of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrest of more than 150 pimps and other individuals. first of all, i'd like to commend the agency for correctly referring to the children as sexual ly exploited children. because a child should never be considered a prostitute. this release refers to other individuals and i was wondering who those other individuals were. i have a concern that while it's extremely appropriate to focus on the pimps, it's also in my opinion very much appropriate to focus on the child molesters who some people would call johns. i would like to know if that's who you were referring to and what is the focus on the child molesters? >> yes, i understand that's what
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was minute by that. there were more than 100 johns arrested as part of operation cross country. >> thank you. the release also says that the children were recovered and i wonder what does that mean. so what will happen with the children. >>. the folks i call the angels of the fbi. they are deeply involved in the operation to make sure those kids get either reunited with their families or so mf of them come from foster care. if they get in a new placement, a lot of them need medical attention right away. and that's what that is meant by that. to get that child to a place where they are cared for either by their biological family or placement in a foster family. >> nugs to medical attention, they need a tremendous amount of therapy. i think it's important in the future i would appreciate it if
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you would lift up where they were saying that they were referring to the child molesters. it's important we call it correctly and that we focus on that. in addition, i would also like to know if the fbi tracks the number of children that are in foster care. we know a large percentage of these kids are in foster care, but there's not a lot of documentation. do you have documentation that could give us some numbers? >> i think we do. our intelligence analysts have done some good work on that frost. i'm a foster parent, so they know it's a passion of mine. and so i think we could equip you with at least some of our thinking on it as we do this work. >> i would like to follow up with your office and get that data. i'd also like to commend you for your task force and i'd like to know if there's more that we can be doing to awe cyst your efforts in innocence loss. i work with them in the los
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angeles area. you have been in the leadership of bringing different sectors of law enforcement together to understand this problem and address it. >> i will ask my staff to think about ways in which we might get more help. we appreciate the offer. >> thank you, and i yield back my time. >> i thank the gentlewoman. >> thank you, mr. chair. mr. director, it's great to have you here. i have heard from constituents about the refugee program and its impact on idaho. there's growing concern that bad actors are not being caught in the vetting process and are gaining admission alongside refugees living in fear. i'm an advocate of refugee programs, but there's a the lot of misconceptions out there and a lot of real fear about the people that are coming into the united states.
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this congress has an onbligatio to ensure the process is working correctly in protecting our national security. numerous times including yesterday both the fbi's assistant director for the counterterrorism division and yourself have testified about the flaws and limitations in the vetting of syrian refugees. on october 8th you testified that you were concerned about certain gaps in the data available to the fbi and yesterday you testified that the fbi can only query what has been previously collected, which is obvious. you have addressed this issue before and you have addressed it i think once here today. but can you explain the security g gaps that exist for purposes of conducting full and effective background checks on foreign nationals who claim to have fled the conflict zone of syria and who are seeking to be resettled as refugees in the united states? >> certainly, thank you. we learned some good lessons
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from less than excellence screening of refugees eight years or so ago. some folks we let in were serious actors that we had to lock up as we figured out who they were. we have gotten much better as an intelligence community at joining our efforts and checking our databases in a way that gives us high confidence. if we have a record on somebody, it will surface. that's the good news. the bad news is as we talked about earlier with iraqi refugees, we had an opportunity for many more encounters between folks in iraq and our soldiers. we had a lot more data. we had fingerprints, scans, forensics of different kinds. the challenge we face with syria is we don't have that asset of data. so even though we have gotten better, we'll have less overall. so as i said to a question earlier, someone only alerts as a result of our searches if we have record on them. that's the challenge we face.
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>> is it accurate to state the lack of intelligence available on the ground in syria is rendering our traditional database and checks obsolete? >> i wouldn't agree obsolete, but i would say we have a less robust data set dramatically than we have with iraq. it will be different. . >> so the fbi has repeatedly contrasted the united states ability to collect intelligence on the ground in iraq with its ability to do so in syria. what can the fbi do to adapt to improve security checks for refugees originating from fail states with no available intelligence. >> that's a hard one. what we can do the fbi is just make sure whatever is available figures into our review, but the underlying problem is how do you generate intelligence in failed states and that's one i don't have a good answer for. >> are you working with the intelligence community to fix this problem? >> certainly. everyone in the intelligence
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community is focused on trying to mitigate this it risk. by querying well and finding additional sources of information to check against it. >> recognizing that isis and syria and that there is a risk that bad actors may attempt to take advantage of this administration's commitment to bring at least 10,000 syrian refugees into the united states, can you estimate the man power and resources needed to address this threat? >> i'm not able to do that sitting here. >> how can i ensure my constituents that the people that may come to idaho are safe, that they are not terrorists, that it the people in my community are going to be safe? >> on behalf of the fbi, what you can assure them is that we will workday and night to make sure if there's information available about somebody, we have surfaced it and evaluated it. >> i understand if there's information, but the problems
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that we don't have the information on most of these people, is that true? >> i can't sit here and offer anyo anybody an absolute assurance that there's no risk associated with this. >> thank you very much. i yield mpack my time. >> i thank the gentleman. >> thank you, mr. chaur. and thank you, director, for being here and for your service. i know as an acting asm g. you demonstrated a commitment to the fourth amendment and protecting americans privacy despite enormous pressure to do otherwise. and you've mentioned in your original testimony and in other comments that the rule of law and the fourth amendment is the spine of the fbi. so i appreciate that commitment. i'd like to ask you a few questions about the fbi's use of aircraft. the fbi deployed aircraft over ferguson last year in response to requests from local law enforcement. is that correct? >> yes. >> does the fbi respond to these
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types of requests frequently? >> thank goodness there rbt the kind of turmoil and pain in communities frequently, but sure, if local law enforcement asks for help in getting a look at a developing situation, we'll offer that help. we have done it in baltimore. e we did it in ferguson, as i recall. >> and what criteria have to be met for the fbi to send aerial resources to assist local law enforcement? who makes that decision? >> it's made at a fairly high level in the fbi. special agent in charge level. at least that's the commander of the field office. it has to go up through a variety of checks before it can be approved. >> what are the criteria you use to make that determination? >> it has to be part of an open investigation of ours or part of our open assistance to law enforcement matter. so it has -- we can get you the particulars of our policy, but as you know, the bureau has a
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policy for everything. there's a series of steps that have to be walked through to make sure it's part of either an open case of ours or it's a legitimate open assistance to law enforcement matter. >> thank you, i'd appreciate the information. your staff also acknowledged that the fbi, quote, routinely uses aviation assets in support of predicated investigations targeting specific individuals and when requested and appropriate in support of state and local law enforcement. why is it so important to stress this distinction when it appears that it's kind of more generalized type of surveillance? >> the distinction? >> the distinction that you have in the feedback from your staff that you use aviation assets in support of predicated investigations targeting specific individuals when in these cases of local law enforcement it seems to be more
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gener generalized type of surveillance. >> i see. u think we're just trying to explain how we use it. we don't fly planes around america looking down trying to figure out if somebody might be doing something wrong. the overwhelming use of our aircraft is a pilot flies as part of an investigation to help us follow a terrorist or criminal. and then with local law enforcement, if there's tremendous turbulence in a community, it's useful to everybody to have a view of what's going on. where are the fires in this community? where do people need help? and sometimes the best view of that is above rather than trying to look from a car on the street. >> and do you feel that warrants are necessary when you're targeting specific individuals, especially when you have aircraft equipped with new technologies like high resolution cameras? >> i don't think so. u meant what i said about the fourth amendment. we're not collecting the content of anybody's communication or engaging anybody besides
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following that investigation. so we do it since the wright brothers with planes. and we do it in cars and do it on foot and the law is pretty clear you don't need a warrant for that kind of observation. >> now that there are technology changes, it was in 1989, there's been a lot of changes in technology. it's not just what you might see with the human eye. are there other types of technologies? and do you think warrants need to be in place? >> i suppose if you're putting technology on an fbi aircraft that had had fourth amendment implications, that is that it was reaching someone's communications or a dwelling, it would have fourth amendment complications. that's not what with use the aircraft for. >> so it led to the decision to seek court orders when attached with sting ray technology? >> we have one aircraft we can
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put sting ray technology on it, that is self-site simulators. u suppose we can mount it on others if we had a court order to do it, but the whole department of justice does this, if we're going to be operating a self-site simulator, we will get a warrant for that. whether that's on the ground or in an airplane, we treat it the same way. >> you decided you feel like you're required by law to do that? >> i think we made that move before there was even a divide among opinions. we went nationwide with the requirement for warrants. there's been no national decision on that. no supreme court level decision on that. we think given that some courts are requiring it. we do it across the country. >> my time has expired. >> i thank the gentleman. i recognize mr. buck for five minutes. >> good morning, director.
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wanted to ask you do you remember the questions about renaming the fbi headquarters building earlier? >> yes. >> and i appreciate your response that we have to look at things through the lens of history. i wanted to ask you about a few other historical figures and see if there were new other fbi buildings named after some of these folks. former democrat senator robert byrd of west virginia was a member of the kkk. he was a recruiter for the kkk. and he was and held leadership positions with the kkk. there are the state capital is named after in charleston, west virginia, named after senator byrd. the federal building is named after senator byrd. the united states courthouse and federal building in charleston, west virginia, is named after senator byrd.
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and the federal correctional institution is named after senator byrd. do you know of any fbi buildings named after senator byrd? >> i don't know. i don't know whether we have folks sitting in the courthouse. i just don't know sitting here. >> okay. former president woodrow wilson resegregated the entire government, including the armed forces. held a showing of "a birth of a a nation" and to praise it in spite of calls to ban it. it was used as a recruiting tool for the kkk. like wise there are a number of buildings named after president wilson. there's a bridge leading in and out of washington, d.c. named after president wilson. do you know of any buildings that the fbi occupies or predominantly owns that are named after president wilson? >> i don't.
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>> president johnson was fond of using the "n" word and used it while he was senate majority leader and used it in many other public settings. many federal buildings are named after him. are there any fbi buildings named after president johnson? >> i don't know. >> and lastly, president truman wrote to his soon to be wife the following words. i think one man is just as good as another so long as he's not an "n" word or a china man. many buldings named after president truman. just wondering any fbi buildings named after president truman? >> i don't know, sir. >> lstz after last, senator richard russell was also a
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member of the kkk. there is a senate building named after senator russell. i assume there are at least to your knowledge no fbi buildings named after senator russell. >> i don't know. i don't think so, but i don't know. >> my last statement would be that perhaps congress should clean up its own act in naming buildings before it asks the fbi to try to rename buldings. i yield back my time. >> i thank the gentleman and recognize mr. salini for five minutes. >> thank you for your service and for sharing your valuable insights and thank you to the extraordinary men and women who serve the bureau and help keep our country safe and our entire nation owes them a debt of gratitude. many expressed sincere concern and condolences following the recent shooting in oregon where
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nine medicine and women lost their lives. . many of us have shared the same sentiments following tragically similar events in lafayette, newtown and blacksburg. but as more americans lose their lives to senseless gun violence, this had congress has failed to act. with this in mind, i'd like to draw on your experience to find solutions to this growing epidemic and to help us find the guts to take necessary action. and so first, i want to draw your attention to the shooting, which occurred at the emanuel methodist church in charleston, south carolina. following the shooting, you ordered the fbi to conduct an internal review of policies and procedures surrounding background checks for weapons purchases. my first question is did that e review occur and what were the findings of that review. >> thank you, congressman. the review did occur. i asked my folks to do a 30-day examination and two things came
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out of them. there were no new facts that changed. it highlighted two potential areas for improvement. one internal to the fub and one external. internal it highlighted for us that maybe we can surge resources and technology to try to reduce the number of gun sales that are held in the delayed pending status longer than three days. and secondly to get better and more timely records from state and local law enforcement about the disposition of people's arrests so our examiners have good records to make a judgment on. those conversations are ongoing. >> those are the two areas i'd like to discuss. as you well know, the current law requires that a request to purchase a firearm is made, the fbi has three days to respond. if no response is provided, then the gun dealer is able to sell the weapon. my understanding is the fbi continues the review any way
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even if it's beyond the three days. that information is then conveyed to the gun dealer. and if that person is disqualified in buying it, what does the fbi do? you know a sale has occurred or and do you take action? >> yes, if after the three day window the gun is transferred and then the examiners discover information, my recollection is, and if i'm wrong we'll fix this, a notice is sent to local law enforcement in that jurisdiction and to the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms. >> so u would like to work with you on that. i'm not sure that's the practice. i think the notice may go to atf, but i don't believe it goes to the gun dealer or local law enforcement and that's a way to try to keep guns out of the hands of people who don't have them. i would like to work with you on that. the second issue is how do we
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incentivize, require, encourage local law enforcement to actually use the system? that background check system is only as good as the information in it. have you done an analysis of what states participate, where the deficiencies are or things we could do or congress could do to help ensure that more states are providing that information so at the bare minimum, we're keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them under law. >> the mass murder in charleston was an event that i think caused a lot of folks in local law enforcement to focus on this question. and as i said, there's a lot of conversation going on. we're pushing out training to state and local law enforcement to explain to them what we need and why we need it in a timely fashion. i don't have, as i sit here, suggestion for how congress
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might help us. when they say the pain of a situation like dylann roof, they want to do better. >> we can't require participation with the system as a result of a supreme court decision, but we ought to be able to do things to create serious inisn'tives or maybe penalties for states that fail to furnish that information. people are walking into gun stores and buying guns who would otherwise be disqualified. i look forward to working with you on that. it's an urgent national priority and i thank you for the work you're doing and i yield back. >> now recognize the gentleman from georgia for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for being here. my father is a georgia state trooper for his whole life. i appreciate your commitment to
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law enforcement. one has to do with an advisory for dealing with credit cards and the shield issue here. it was for consumer fraud. new credit cards equipped with the security are vulnerability to identity theft and the use of pen authorization would be more secure way to consumers, transaction would be more simple. within 24 hours that advisory was taken down. a few days later, an advisory no longer included the pins. it's my understanding they have encouraged the pin authorization because it's frankly has a lower fraud rate. my question would be is in light of that, does fbi consider pin a more secure form of authentication? >> i think the experts of the fbi would say that pin and chip is more secure than pin and signature. and the confusion there was our folks put out the public service announcement and it was a miss
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on our part without focusing on the fact that most merchants don't have the capability to accommodate the pin and chip. so it's going to cause confusion. >> let's talk about that a second. many of the places that i go to, you either swipe like on o gas station or go into a store. any of them that now have the swipe machine have a number for debit cards, which is already there for the pin. i know now i have just gotten broken into using the chip because my new cards have chips so i slide them in. i'm still learning how to do this but the key pad is right there above it. i'm not sure i follow your answer there that the technology is not available. if the key pad is right there to input a number, why is the technology not available? >> i don't know.
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i'm not the world's smartest person on this. it is available in some places, but it's not widely available in president united states. and if i'm wrong about that, we'll correct that. >> i'm just going on my own personal experience. i've rarely found one that is pure swipe with no key pad. and i was just concerned and if that's not right and if you want to go back and look into that. i think the concern came among many that maybe there's an issue, because as a business owner i pay different fees depending on how i did it. like if a consumer used a credit card or versus a debit card. and i'm just wondering could that have been an issue because the pin using the pin typically is a different fee. was that possibly taken into account as the reason for the removal of this and change to say it's not as worrisome as we first thought? >> i think that could be the
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reason that the equipment is not widely available in the united states. that was not a factor in why we withdrew the public service announcement. we withdrew it because our worry was we're going to confuse people who are going to roll into places looking for the chip and pin and it isn't widely available. >> there's a lot of times before debit cards, i think the concern here is we deal in information security and you're always trying to move toward the more secure atmosphere. . there is a better way but we're not going to encourage that. we're going to let the status quo. . so just a question. i have a question. one was basically the distinction in current law is
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something we talked about. you said you use a warrant in all cases. there's been statements that 30 prosecutors all say that requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant from a court does not prevent from doing its job. would you agree with that in light of this issue? >> i think by and large that's true. i think it poses you -- unique challenges. but for law enforcement, judges are available and if we have the evidence, we can use the show i ing. >> i have always consider the fub to have high standards. some of these agencies that are wanted where they use it or not, i think from a law enforcement standpoint, this is something they could go through normal means. that's the concern that many of us have. there's time for other questions like the hacking issues in
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china. from the fbi's perspective, have we traced that and said, yes, chinese hackers stole this data? >> i have with high confidence of an understanding of who did it. i'm not in a position to say it in an open forum. >> maybe we can discuss that. that's a concern. we can't reward bad behavior. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman and recognize mr. jeffreys for five medici minutes. >> thank you, director. i think you testified rlier today in your belief as to the efficacy of mandatory minimums. is that correct? >> yes, they were a useful tool as a prosecutor. >> can you elaborate as to whether you still believe that mandatory money mums in light of the explosion of the united states prison population,
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particularly relative to every other developed country in the world, is still a relevant law enforcement tool? >> u think it is. i'm not in a position by expertise and i shouldn't offer a view on whether it should be ten years or five years. the certainty of punishment is a useful tool in fighting crime. and in the absence of mandatory guidelines, that's about as far as i have the expertise in the position to go. >> is your view anchor ed in th fact that many prosecutors have articulated the position that in the the absence of mandatory minimums they don't have the same club by which to solicit cooperation and perhaps obtain plea bargains? >> in my experience with the state system, which did in my experience as a prosecutor did not have the tools to elicit
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cooperation that we did. i don't have the expertise or not in a position to offer a view on that. some certainty of punishment absent cooperation is very valuable. >> in crimes that don't have mandatory minimums, the conviction rates a the federal level are higher than the conviction rates of those where mandatory minimums do exist. i think that's part of the reason why diverse group of individuals on both the left and the right including the heritage foundation, which i believe said there's no evidence that mandatory minimums reduce crime, have questioned their continued need at least in its current form. now can you comment on sort of the explosion of the united states prison population? when the war on drugs began in the early 1970s, we had less than 350,000 people who are incarcerated in america. currently that's in access of
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2.3 million. we have 5% of the world's population. 25% of the incarcerated individuals in the world are here in the united states of america. many of us believe it creates a competitive disadvantage for us going forward. it does to the social fabric of many communities. can you comment as to the mass incarceration phenomenon that exists in america and what should be done about it from a public safety standpoint? >> i struggle with the word mass incarceration because it conveys a sense that people were locked up on mass. when every case is a tragedy. everyone had a lawyer and a judge and had had to be proven guilty. there's no doubt a lot of people were locked up and that's a big problem for our country. but here's the fact. in 2014 america was far safer than it was when i was born in 1960. i think a big part of that change as a result of which a whole lot of people are alive today who wouldn't be is due to
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law enforcement. and so i'm going to view that yes, we can reform the system. it can be better in a lot of ways, but we ought to reform it with an eye towards where we used to be and how we got from there to here. i would not want to give back to our children the america we lived in in the 19730s. that's the reason i want us to be thoughtful about it. i believe we can be better in a whole lot of ways that we probably don't have time to talk about. >> i think it's important for us to be thoughtful. i grew up in new york city in the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic. no one wants to return to that. the pugh study concluded that in all 17 states that have cut their incarceration rates, they have experienced a e decline in crime. it seems that there's room based on the data for real discussion as to how to get the balance correct. u gather you share that view.
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i appreciate your willingness to continue in a dialogue for us to get the benefit of your views as we move forward toward criminal justice reform. >> thank you, happy to. >> i yield back. >> can i be recognized for a a point of personal privilege? >> without objection. >> i'm a student of history. when i make a mistake i want to correct it. i was wrong in seeing that senator vander berg had committed suicide. it was senator haste and his son was arrested in lafayette park for being gay, but that was mccarthy who was after him. right church, wrong pew. i wanted to correct the record. thank you, sir. >> now recognize for five minutes. >> good afternoon, director. i'm a former prosecutor. companies have began notifying customers when law enforcement
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request data through a subpoena or warrant unless there's a court ordered nondisclosure requirement. i think particularly for child porn investigations this it may be an issue. is that something that could hamper investigations? >> i do. it's something i've been hearing more and more about over my two years in this job from prosecutor who is are worried about it. >> i think we're going to address that, so i'm glad to hear you say that. the president has a plan to bring over people from the civil war in syria. tens of thousands, perhaps a hundred thousand. can we vet them? and if not, isn't it just a fact that some of those people will be contributing to some of the home grown terrorism that we have in this country? >> z thank you for that question. it's an important issue. we can vet them. we have learned lessons from the vetting of iraqi refugees. the challenge we face is we can only vet against data that's
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been collected with respect to a person and so the information we had for iraq was much richer than we had for syria. >> there's a problem here potentially. i know it's going to fall on you to have to defend the american people once some of these individuals come into the country. and it's something i'm concerned with. there's been talk about reforming. particularly when they get into the federal system where these are really significant trafficking offenses typically, is it accurate to say that they are nonviolent or is the drug trade violent in your judgment? >> each case is different. but in my experience, anyone who is part of a trafficking organization is part of an organization that has violence all through it. and whether you're a mill worker or runner or look out, you're part of something that's suffocating a community. and so i have a hard time characterizing drug organizations in any respect as
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nonviolent. >> in terms of the drop in crime you alluded to as part of that simply because there have been stiffer sentences and criminals are incapacitated and off the streets and our communities are safer. >> i believe that was a big part. i think most, perts believe it was a big part of the historic reduction we have seen in crime over my career. >> with respect to individual offenses, there's been discussion about mishandling of classified information. does the fbi keep records of all the investigations related to each offense of the criminal code? >> i don't know that it's searchable by each offense implicated by an investigation. if a case was charged, then the charged offenses would be our recordkeeping. i don't think every possible charge. >> we know. every mishandling of classified information we can look that up.
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that gets brought by the u.s. attorney, but we don't know whether the attorney declined x number of cases pertaining to that? >> i think that's correct. i don't know o if our records would reflect violations in a case whether it would be clear from our case files that it was that. >> understood. >> in terms of handling classified information, there's been stuff in the press about something needs to be marked classified is your understanding of the u.s. code that if i were to send classified information over an unsecured system, does that mean i have not kmilted the offense? >> that one i think i would prefer not to answer. i'm trying to make sure that given that we have a matter under investigation now that relates to that topic that i preserve our ability to be seen and to be in reality honest and competent.
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if i start commenting on things that might touch it, i worry i could jeopardize that. >> i think that's an admiral posture. i think it's one you have shown throughout your career. how does when the president of the united states render a judgment that there's no security damage if information has been dus closed, how does that help the investigation or hurt the investigation? >> the fbi is honest, competent and independent. we follow the facts, only the facts, all we care about are the facts. >> i hope that that will be how you conduct yourself. i hope as you do your work as it moves on to other aspects of our system that it's based on the merits and not political on high. thank you for your time. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman and
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recognize ms. lee for five minutes. >> mr. chairman, thank you. and to the director, thank you very much. you appeared yesterday and added a great deal of insight and so i'd like to not pursue a line of questioning but hope to have an opportunity to meet with you on something we began discussing yesterday which is cyber security and the whole role it plays as really an almost call it a another figure, another entity in the scheme of terrorism. i am the ranking member for investigations and we're looking to be responsible in addressing, which i believe issues in the criminal justice system and somewhat overlapping the question of terrorism, in this community. certain certainly in homeland security.
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let e me just quickly start with a question that i think i introduced in the record yesterday, the no fly for foreign fighters. we heard testimony that indicated the numbers might be going down. i had a number in my notes that was 250 approximately americans that were left to the foreign fight and may be coming back. we must always be prepared. 9/11 was one we had never imagined before. we had never imagined an airplane being used as a torpedo. we imagined a hijacking. we never managed. so most time imagination comes with disney world, but i know that if this is a serious posture. so any extra tool that we can give you with with respect to refining and defining the lists that you have to make sure that
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we have ever potential -- every foreign fighter. would that be helpful to you? >> e yes, we want to make sure the list is comprehensive. if we could get every foreign fighter on there, that would be great. >> if we have this legislation, which is to add extra tools to you to ensure that that list is a vetted and a well updated list, would that be helpful? >> i don't know the legislation, but the goal i share to have a complete updated carefully vetted list. >> i appreciate that very much. let me move to guns and i don't want to put words in your mouth, but let me say that i served as a municipal court judge and see officers under cover all the time and with a little smile on my face i would have to say who are you? because obviously, dealing with some of the matters in local government they were in some tough places and had to look that way as well. and i recognize the dangers that our officers face.
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we had a horrific tragedy in our community in houston, but we just recently lost an officer again in new york and we lose officers as we do with other who is are exacted by guns. the 11-year-old who shot an 8-year-old over a dog and another youngster 3 years old that had a gun over this weekend and found it. we never can again imagine the sablt of our children. i ask you the question why law enforcement is not our biggest champion not on gun control, i call it gun safety regulation. not on diminishing the second amendment, i call it responsibly handling weapons. who would want to lose a 4-year-old in a droouf by
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shooting in new mexico because someone had a gun. so we have introduced legislation that gives you an extended period of time on this gun check situation, which was one of the horrible situations in the south carolina nine where you were doing its work but since you weren't heard from they just -- allowed this gentleman to get a gun and kill nine people. we have a number of legislative initiates, not taking away your gun, they want to regulate the safety infrastructure. i have introduced legislation to keep guns away from children. in your dealing with law enforcement, the impact that guns have on this, more guns in the united states than people. the impact on the work you all do. would you answer that for me please? my last thing before you go, there have been a number of
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church fires. we keep ignoring it. we had another series before. would you comment on the fbi's work they are doing. if the chairman would indulge me, i appreciate it. if you take this name down, who was killed on his front porch. it wasn't a porch, it was a cement driveway of his home. excuse me, let me stand corrected and apologize to his mother. he was wounded and still lives with the bullet in his liver. and the disappointing aspect is that it was an officer who mistook hum as an african-american male in a stolen car. he was in his mother's car going home to his house in houston, texas, in a small city called bel air.
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my question is for you to look into what further fbi investigation can go into this case and u would greatly appreciate it if you would allow him to answer that, i thank you for the indulgence. >> thank you. i will certainly look into it. with respect to church fires, we have not ignore d them. our agents investigating a number of church fire incidents around the country. we have not found patterns and connections that connect to our civil rights enforcement work, but we're continuing to work on it. with respect to guns, the people in the fbi care deeply about trying to stop gun violence. what the bureau does not do is get involved in the public policy legal questions because our job is to enforce the law. e we leave it to the department of justice to make recommendations to what the law should be. i think that's a place that makes sense for us to be, but we are passionate about trying to enforce the law against bad guys with guns, especially in our
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cities where gun violence, especially gang-related gun violence is increasingly a plague this year. >> the proliferation of guns endangers law enforcement. does it not? >> the gentle lady's time has expired. >> guns in the hands of criminals endanger all of us, including law enforcement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i think all of us would agree with that. i'll republic news myself for five minutes. i want to thank you for being here. many people here in the committee have recognized your unbiassed attitudes in enforcing the law as it's written, and i think that speaks very highly of you and i have been impressed with the clarity of your testimony this morning. i believe that commitment to independence enforcement of the law and a genuine and sincere conviction on your part.
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director, let me -- the department of justice has investigated past allegations of possible violations. i know you have touched on this subject before, so forgive me for sort of rehashing it. possible violations of the partial abortion ban act. in a letter dated in 2015 responding to this committee's request for an investigation of possible violations of the partial birth abortion ban act by planned parenthood, the department of justice stated that since the unsepgs of the partial birth abortion act the department has investigated allegations of health fults related to possible violations of that law. is there any current investigation by the fbi related to planned parenthood and the footage that's been release d b
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the center for medical progress at this time that you know of? >> as i said in response to an earlier question, i'll get back to you and let you know. as i sit here now, u don't have a strong enough grasp of where that stands. letters were sent to the department of justice, but i got to figure out where we are and i can get back to you. >> as far as you know, even apart from the planned parenthood videos, do you know of any partial birth abortion ban actions taken by the fbi? >> i don't. i know we have jurisdiction to investigate such things. i believe we have, but i didn't know enough to answer that well right here. >> i would appreciate that last part being included in your response. there are system of us that think that the rule of law applies to these little ones that have so little ability to protect themselves as well. let me shift gores on you. there's been several questions asked about gun violencviolence.
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i agree with your last answer completely that we want to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and that it's vital for the safety of the public that we do that. there are those of us to ask law enforcement do we think it would be wise to take guns out of the hands of law enforcement. almost no one would suggest that. because we believe that guns in the hands of properly trained fbi agents is a protection to the public. from my perspective, that would suggest that it's not the guns, it's whose hands they are in. because it's hard to make a case that if they are on the one hand a protective measure, the hands of police officers that there's something that can protect and deter and prevent or interdict violence that they are a good thing and all of us from almost every spectrum of political consideration would suggest
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that. then the obvious reason response becomes it's not the guns but the hands they are in. my question to you is how do we separate the argument so we're doing everything we can to prevent those who have lost their second amendment rights, who have demonstrated violent society or some issue with mental illness. how do we deal with that while still leaving intact the right to own and bare arms under the second amendment by those who follow the law and protect themselves and sometimes even protect officers of the law? >> i think, congressman, that's a question for others, including congress. the fbi's role is such that i think it's very important that that not be a conversation debate that we participate in because we don't make policy for the american people. the american people tell us what they think the law should be, how to solve these hard problems
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and we will enforce the law. that's critical to us remaining honest, kpe tnt and independent. so it's just not a conversation i think the fbi should participate in professionally. >> that's a very reasonable answer. i hope that we can do that. i think it will make your job easier and it will augment the great work you do for the country. with that i'm going to end my question time. do we have any? yes, we do. i think that mr. bishop is not here. mr. bishop is recognized for five minutes. >> director, i was here earlier and apologize for stepping out. i want to begin by thanking you for what you and your entire team does because what you do on a dilly basis is something that
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most of us don't even know about. . we can't comprehend. you keep us safe, and we're grateful for what you do. on behalf of my family, i'm very grateful to you and your entire department. wanted to tell you that and i admire your testimony today. thank you for your candor. you've been here forever taking a lot of questions. i dhaugt maybe i would ask you about syrian refugees and what we're seeing. my state of michigan is a huge hub for those of middle eastern descent. there's some concern, and i apologize if you answered this question, i would like to ask you what do we know -- how do we vet these refugees coming to our country? is there it a way to do it that we can rely upon? my office does a lot of
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immigration work. we work with those who are attempting to immigrate legally every day and help them any way we can to try to get through th have groups that are coming in the way they are. that really skirt, that really skip those steps in between. just wondering if you could share what your experience is and what you know about the process. >> it's a process i describe as good news and bad news. we have gotten as a country, an intelligence community in particular much better at organizing ourselves so that we get a complete picture of what we know about somebody. we learn some lessons from iraqi refugees eight years ago or so, so we've gotten better at clearing our holdings. if there's a ripple this person's created in our pond, i'm confident we'll see it and evaluate it. the bad news is we'll have less data with respect to folks
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coming in to syria to iraq because we don't have the u.s. army presence that could giveus metrics to query. someone who is a blank slate will be vetted, but show no sign of anything because they've never crossed our radar screen. we can't tell you it's risk free. >> and as time goes on, the process that you are going through will be more apparent to the american people. i say that because there are a lot of folks in my state who are very concerned and that level of unknown, of not understanding exactly the process, has caused a little panic across the district and the more that we can hear t more we understand what the process is, we remember the iraqi refugees in the state of michigan. especially in my area in southeast michigan.
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so, appreciate your ongoing communication on how that's going. i want to switch gears with you real quick. i've had the pleasure of visiting, working with a number of youth serving organizations in my district and i know one is here today represented. it's important work they do in the community. and i've spoken to some of them about the importance of keeping their kids safe and one of the ways they do that is getting background checks and it ensures so many different ways of fostering a safe environment. and it's really an issue i feel deeply about. i have kids of my own. can you talk a little bit about the value of including national fbi fingerprint background checks as a part of the comprehensive screening of staff and volunteers, there are so many that are right there with our children and we know that the fbi background checks is the gold standard of the process. can you share a little bit about
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how we can promote that and encourage that? >> thaun, congressman. i think if i remember correctly, we've been doing a pilot program on that topic. at our criminal justice information system's operation, which i do believe is the gold standard, you're right. so, anybody who wants to ensure that people in contact with children or any other sensitive position have been checked out, the best way to do it is with us. as an exciting new feature that's come on now as part of our next generation identification, we're building in something called rat back, which means if you query somebody as a day care provider, if they are ever again arresteded, you will get notified because that's been a hole in the system. people are clean when they first go in, then get in trouble five years down the road. it will make a big difference and make the gold standard platinum in a way.
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>> did you say a rap back -- >> r-a-p-b-a-c-k. >> got you. thank you very much for your time. appreciate your your testimony today. with that, i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman and now, mr. rat cliff for five minutes. it's a fuf day here. >> thank you, mr. chairman. direct director comey, thanks for being here. i want to ask a couple of cybersecurity issues. before that, i want to follow up from a question i asked at the homeland security meeting yesterday. we had a belirief change about president's decision to take in 10,000 syrian refugees over the next year. that's a five or 600% increase over prior years and i add indicated to you that humanitarian concerns aside, i
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was troubled with respect to national security, the national security aspects of it as you're hearing from many of my colleagues here, particularly because isis has said that it would use or try to use the refugee process to get into the united states and further to that point as you've testified, our own databases don't have information on some of these individuals, so there are gaps of intelligence there, so, we had a discussion about that figure of 10,000 yesterday. i guess if you had been the sole decider on that issue, what figure would you have recommended to the president? >> i don't know. i'm pleased to say it's not my job to recommend that to the president. i just don't know. >> i understand that. i know the fbi is is not a policymaking body with respect to that issue, but as you real, we had a discussion, i had a discussion, i asked secretary johnson the same thing and he
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assured me that there was an interagency process, but i guess what i'm trying to get at was is this a figure that the administration presented to you or and said, you know, meet the security obligations that come with this or was this part of a process where there was actually input from folks like you that should be providing input on what that number would be? >> i think there was plenty of input from the fbi and other parts of the intelligence community. the good thus and bad news, i don't know and don't recall, don't know if i could say even if i did recall, of how a number came up. it wouldn't have come from the fbi, but i just don't know. >> you understand the concern that we would hope these decisions were driven by intelligence rather than political reasons or pressures from our european allies or other folks around the world, so
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that's why i asked the question. but turning to cybersecurity and i chair the subcommittee on cyber at homeland, your testimony, element of virtually every national security threat and crime problem the fbi faces is cyber based was facilitated. i want that to sink in for everyone because it's such an important point for us to consider in our oversight of the fbi. i think it really speaks to the gravity of the issue here that you're seeing a cyber element to almost every national security threat and crime problem, so, aside from the encryption issue, which i've heard you, i've had the opportunity to hear you talk about in the past, what are the major challenges that you face in detecting and prosecutoring cyber crime right now. >> thank you for that question and for your interest in that issue and leadership there. two big issues are getting the
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right folks and the right equipment. in reverse order. the bad guys have very sophisticated equipment, so, if we're going to be good at responding to all the threats we're responsible for, we've got to have world class systems and great people to operate them and that's a challenge when we're facing an industry that will pay young folks a lot of dough to go work in the private sector. we compete on exhibition. i hope that convinces their families, but those are the two big focuses. >> the issue of insider threats has been described by at least some as the greatest threat to businesses that operate in cyber space and of course, we saw the scale of that threat with respect to edward snowden. i know that the department of justice has asked congress for clarity on the law in this area.
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for assistance in prosecuting insiders who access sensitive data. that they're not authorized to and i want to give you an opportunity to elaborate on that from your perspective. >> it's an important part of the threat. that's true. i don't know what the department's questions and concerns are about their -- i don't think i can offer anything useful there. >> my time's expired, but imt to express my thanks. i had the opportunity to work for you when you were the acting attorney general and as the deputy attorney general. and because of that, i have great confidence in you and am grateful for your continued service and am comforted by the fact you're in the director's chair and you're the person making such important decisions about our nation's security, so, thank you and with that, mr.
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chairman, i yield back. >> i would just take a moment to echo those comments. 7-year-old children are grateful people like you are on the job. that would conclude today's hearing. thanks to our distinguished witness for attending. thank the audience here. without objection, all members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the witness or additional materials for the record. with that, thank you again, detector comey. this hearing is adjourned.


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